Provident Bankshares Corp., Baltimore, has reported a net loss of $15.5 million ($0.49 per share) for the fourth quarter, chiefly as a result of a writedown of its REIT trust preferred securities. Provident recorded net income of $11.3 million ($0.34 per share) a year earlier. The company said the loss stemmed from the writedown of "a significant portion" of its $95 million portfolio of real estate investment trust securities and an increase in the provision for loan losses "to reflect the inherent risk in its real estate loan portfolios," among other things. "We took these prudent steps with our investment portfolio even though the securities that are being written down are performing," said Gary N. Geisel, Provident's chairman and chief executive officer. "Given their lack of market liquidity and recent credit rating decline, this was a prudent decision based on a rational analysis of the national housing and residential mortgage industries." The company can be found online at http://www.provbank.com.

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